Back when I was a Knesset member I encountered various LGBT organizations. The more I met with their representatives, the clearer it became to me that the attitude toward their demand to have full equal rights – and not out of respect for “diversity” or out of “consideration” – is a kind of litmus test by which to judge the extent of a society’s liberalism.
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In Israel today, with all its growing religiosity, racism and nationalism, the LGBT community bears impressive witness to the fact that when people unite and wage a devoted and determined struggle for equal rights, without blinking, without stuttering and without apologizing – they can overcome prejudice. True, not all gay men and women are active in the LGBT community, but the natural way in which they participate in society and raise their children has led to increased recognition of their rights and their power.
This is not an obvious thing, considering the starting point. The ultra-Orthodox – and even the national-religious public – know of no other sexuality than that involving a man and a woman. True, recognition of the existence of the LGBT phenomenon can now even be found in those communities, and there are religious gay men and women who do not hide their identity. However, this phenomenon, which is winning ever-increasing legitimacy in Israeli society, is condemned not only by rabbis and experts in Jewish law, but by the Torah. And although there are Jewish law experts who have tried to moderate the teachings of yehareg uval ya’avor – to be killed rather than violate a religious prohibition – they cannot obscure the power in what many religious people consider to be the unambiguous verses that appear in Leviticus.
My purpose here is not to glorify the achievements of the LGBT community, but to try and prove that when there is a clearly defined objective and there are people who view achieving that objective as their life’s goal, they can topple strong walls and smash glass ceilings. It may seem amazing, but the stubborn struggle that’s included gay pride marches in the holy city of Jerusalem, was what allowed the first light of legitimacy into the heart of darkness.
The LGBT community has not achieved full equality. They still have to fight hard against hostility and prejudice – as seen in the battles over the right to adopt or to marry. And yet, having followed the issue since the 1990s, when the first laws relating to the community were brought before the Knesset – I can attest that they have come a very long way. Ze’ev Jabotinsky (whose admirers today twist his doctrine) wrote about an iron wall. The LGBT community put up an iron wall, and right-wing and provincial and religious Israelis cannot dismantle it – as their “prophet,” President Donald Trump, is trying to do in the United States.
The struggle against racism, efforts to segregate of minorities and attempts to put the left wing beyond the pale does not produce real movements, imbued with faith, where people are prepared to fight to the end for their way of life. I’m not talking about a political party, but rather about people who complain, whine and look every morning for headlines heralding the political demise of the prime minister: They are the ones who should go out and fight.
The obstinacy of the protesters in front of the attorney general’s house shows the ability to persevere and proves that there are many in our society who yearn for change. A determined leadership can sweep in is wake tens of thousands who are ready to fight for their beliefs. There are no shortcuts, but the goal is clear: restore faith in this country’s values, oppose social and economic polarization, the occupation and the worldview that feeds it, and fight for democracy.
The LGBT community has proven that even in a conservative reality there is power and strength for a determined struggle on behalf of a just cause. What about the rest of society?